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Old Testament Legends being stories out of some of the less-known apochryphal books of the old testament (TREDITION CLASSICS) Paperback – October 25, 2011
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About the Author
Montague Rhodes James (1862 – 1936), who used the publication name M. R. James, was an English author, medieval scholar and provost of King's College, Cambridge (1905–1918), and of Eton College (1918–1936). He is best remembered for his ghost stories, which are regarded as among the best in the genre, but his work as a medieval scholar was prodigious and remains highly respected in scholarly circles. Indeed, the success of his stories was founded on his antiquarian talents and knowledge. His discovery of a manuscript fragment led to excavations in the ruins of the abbey at Bury St Edmunds, West Suffolk, in 1902, in which the graves of several twelfth-century abbots were rediscovered. He died in 1936 and was buried in Eton town cemetery. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
According to M.R. James, some of these are quite ancient and some are newer. The stories are arranged chronologically and feature Adam, Eve, Cain, Abraham, Job, Joseph ,Jeremiah and Solomon. A new, non-Biblical character is Ahiker, advisor to the King of the Chaldeans.
The stories about Adam and Eve mostly concern how they deal with being sent from the Garden of Eden. The story of Job is a re-telling of his book in the Bible, but it is more satisfying than the original.
The story of Solomon is very bizarre. Solomon uses a ring to control demons in order to build the Temple. Abraham gets a lot of attention in these stories and we get to read stories about him as a young man and as an old man. There is a long story about Joseph (the interpreter of dreams) and a young woman that conspires to marry him.
The problem with these stories is the writing. They were written in a style that mimics the King James version, which was the par for the course translation when M.R. James wrote this book. But, it's just makes some of these stories even more difficult.
There is one more issue with this Kindle version. Many times the capital "C" is actually replaced with a capital "G". So we have Gain and Abel and the Gaananites. It's no big deal, especially since I paid nothing for this version, but just be aware of it if you choose to read these stories.
In his longish preface to "Old Testament Legends," M.R. James (MRJ) directs his comments to 'young persons' and it is obvious that he has written these stories from various less-well-known Old Testament apocrypha to attract what we now call young adults. He begins by defining 'apocryphal' and how it is used in connection with the Bible, then goes on to ask how and why the stories came to be written:
"It is likely enough that after reading some history in the Bible you may have wondered whether there was anything more to be known about the people of whom it told you."
The stories that MRJ derives from Old Testament Apocrypha do just that. They are as follows:
-Adam: what transpired after Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden. How God took pity on them, even though He refused to let them return to the Garden.
-The Death of Adam and Eve (in two parts): the first part is taken from Malan's translation of 'The Book of Adam and Eve' and from Dillmann's German translation of the same. The second part is from the Greek 'Revelation of Moses.' Adam lived for 930 years, then finally fell sick and called his 30 sons and daughters to his side. He and Abel and Eve are eventually buried in the Garden of Eden.
-Abraham: the first part of the story is taken from 'The Apocalypse of Abraham' and the second part from 'The Testament of Abraham.' How Abraham began to despise the idols of his father. The Death of Abraham.
-The Story of Aseneth, Joseph's Wife: is taken from the Greek 'History of Aseneth.' Aseneth, daughter of Potipherah, who was high priest of the city of On in Egypt at first despises Joseph and then falls in love with him.
-Job: taken from 'The Testament of Job' in MRJ's "Apocrypha Anecdota." The death of Job. He calls his children together and tells them how he overcame the temptations of Satan.
-Solomon and the Demons: from 'The Testament of Solomon' How King Solomon overcame the demons and made them work for him.
-The Story of Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, and of the Death of Jeremiah. Jerusalem is about to be laid waste by the Chaldeans, and God spake to Jeremiah the prophet, saying, "Depart out of this city, for I am about to destroy it for the wickedness of them that dwell therein." Jeremiah pleads for his friends Baruch, the scribe and Ebedmelech, the Ethiopian and God agrees to spare them in a rather unusual way. The two friends remain behind while the Jews are taken into captivity in Babylon. The story ends with a rather complicated death scene where Jeremiah utters a mysterious prophecy and the Jews stone him to death.
-Ahikar: from 'The Book of Tobit.' Achiacharus (Ahikar) is steward to the great king Esarhaddon of Nineveh. He rejects the gods of Nineveh and turns to the God of Israel and asks for a son. Unfortunately, his adopted son, Nadan grows up to be a lying, unscrupulous creep who turns the king against Ahikar. This story has lots of tongue-in-cheek humor. I especially liked the part where Ahikar travels to Egypt and fools the Pharaoh into donating three years of Egyptian revenue to Ninevah.
If you are at all interested in the books that didn't make it into the orthodox Old Testament, this collection of some of the lesser-known apocryphal stories is quite fascinating.